Vietnam mulls methods of effective solar panel recycling

06:00 | 09/06/2021 Environment

(VEN) - The number of expired solar panels (photovoltaic panels) in Vietnam is expected to increase significantly in the coming years with the strong development of solar power. However, given scientific and technological advances, 97 percent of the photovoltaic panel’s materials can be completely recycled and become input materials for many manufacturing industries.

vietnam mulls methods of effective solar panel recycling
Ninety seven percent of the components of solar photovoltaic panels will be recycled for use as industrial production material

Recycling proposals

At a seminar on solar cell recycling held in late April in Hanoi, Nguyen Van Hoi, Director of the Vietnam Institute of Industrial and Trade Policy and Strategy, said that according to the draft Power Plan VIII, solar power capacity is expected to reach about 18.89GW by 2030 and about 53GW by 2045. If these forecasts are borne out, the accumulated waste volume of panels is estimated at 404,000 tonnes by 2035 and about 1.9 million tonnes by 2045.

With the strong development of solar power in the world and in Vietnam in the next few decades, the number of expired or broken solar photovoltaic panels will be very large. However, as most of the materials in solar photovoltaic panels are non-toxic and with current treatment and recycling technologies, it can be said that the source of photovoltaic panels is no longer of concern to the environment.

Many countries have issued specific policies on treating and recycling photovoltaic panels. For example, the government of the Republic of Korea asks domestic manufacturers and importers to pay a recycling fee of US$1.04 per kilogram. Meanwhile, Switzerland takes advantage of materials and components that are still in use and destroys those that are no longer useful, using solar panels as a source of raw materials for electric vehicle batteries.

vietnam mulls methods of effective solar panel recycling

Regarding solutions for treating and recycling solar panels in Vietnam, Dao Tran Nhan from the Vietnam Association of Economic and Trade Advisory proposed that policymakers issue regulations on downtime, storage or recycling of solar panels and adopt clear regulations on responsibilities among parties. In terms of technological solutions, Vietnam needs to develop specific standards for each type of battery and formulate regulations and mechanisms to monitor and control the quality of solar cells, encourage recycling and impose sanctions in case of violations.

Dr. Le Huy Khoi from the Vietnam Institute of Industrial and Trade Policy and Strategy also recommended a number of solutions, such as strengthening inspection and supervision over the collection and treatment of expired batteries; prescribing environmental protection responsibilities of enterprises and service providers, and encouraging investment in solar panel recycling plants in Vietnam. More financial mechanisms and policies to support businesses in a practical way are also needed, along with information to raise the awareness on using, collecting and recycling solar cells effectively.

Input materials for manufacturing

According to a study by scientists at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, after their expiration date, up to 99 percent of photovoltaic panels can be recovered, with recycling and material recovery efficiency of up to 97 percent. The problem of environmental pollution from expired photovoltaic panels is no longer a concern.

Vice Chair of the Vietnam Association for Clean Water and Environment Nguyen Quang Huan said photovoltaic panels whose main components are glass, aluminum, silicon, and glue are non-toxic and can be recycled at a level of 97 percent, with the remaining diffusing in the air. The process does not generate waste causing environmental pollution, and also saves natural resources and energy.

The average life cycle of photovoltaic panels is 15-20 years, and solar energy projects in Vietnam have only been developed in the last two to three years. With the ongoing science and technology development, experts predict that in the future, factories that want input materials will have to buy back solar photovoltaic panels from project investors, making photovoltaic panels an expensive raw material.

Thu Huong